Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

January 16, 2003


            Sometimes we see them hung from rear view mirrors. At wakes we see them wrapped around the hands of the corpse. Nearly every Catholic has one somewhere. Probably stuffed in a dresser drawer. Many people carry one in their pocket or purse. They reveal their Catholic identity when they have to pull them going through metal detectors. Children often get them as gifts for their first communion. The media uses them as a symbol of Roman Catholicism.

No doubt about it, the rosary is a cultural “icon” of Catholic life.

            But, in recent years it has been little more than a “religious accessory.” While many Catholics, myself included, may have always carried a rosary in our pockets, we hardly ever actually prayed the rosary.

            To be honest with you, for a long time I stopped praying the rosary because I just didn’t like it. It seemed mindlessly repetitious. The piety of the rosary seemed excessively focused on Mary and much too little focused on Jesus. At a time when the Church was rediscovering the scriptures, the rosary seemed “unscriptural.”

            But, that has begun to change.  Not just in my life but in the life of the church. We have begun to appreciate again the rosary and its proper role in our prayer life. We don’t say it during mass, like the old days (and shouldn’t), but more and more on Saturdays we are saying it before or after mass, together.

            While we may have neglected it, the rosary always did have a valuable place in the piety of Catholics.

My uncle Bill, a priest for more than 50 years, prayed it when he was tired or distracted.  He called it his “resting prayer.”  It could be said without too much intellectual effort and without his glasses.

People have called the rosary the “simple psalter” or the “poor man’s office.” While the monks had the time and companionship to pray the psalms together every day, the ordinary person couldn’t do that. The rosary, however, could be a kind of “liturgy of the hours” for the lay person.

The rosary can be prayed privately, even in public.  People prayed it the way to work, on buses or trains. It is a simple prayer for busy lives.

I find I pray the rosary while I am driving. It is an alternative to the irritation of the radio and an antidote to the irritation of the traffic. I leave a rosary the cup holder in the car and can say a decade even a short trips.

The rosary is a community prayer. Families can say it together after dinner. People can pray it while walking on hikes and pilgrimages. Children and adults can say it together, each gaining something on their own level.

John Paul II has proclaimed this the “year of the rosary.”  From October, 2002, to October, 2003, he has asked us to “contemplate the face of Christ in union Mary.”  He says the Rosary is “nothing other than to contemplate, with Mary, the face of Christ.”

The Pope has changed things a bit to make the rosary more scriptural, just as he did with the Stations of the Cross. John Paul II has added five new “mysteries” for contemplation, which he calls the “Luminous Mysteries.” Now there are 20 mysteries of the rosary.

He suggested that the new mysteries of light be prayed on Thursdays and the Joyful mysteries now be said on Mondays and Saturdays. Each of these new “Mysteries of Light” reveals something about Jesus was and His mission.

The five Luminous Mysteries are: (1) the baptism of the Lord in the Jordan, (2) the miracle at the Wedding at Cana, (3) the proclamation of the Kingdom and call to conversion, (4) the Transfiguration of the Lord, and (5) the institution of the Eucharist. 

The rosary is making a come back. Actually, it had never gone away. The grace was always at our finger tips, we just had to reach into our pockets and pull it out.